Margaret Blaine: Slipped on an icy patch.
Cathy Salt: He was decapitated!
Margaret Blaine: It was a very icy patch.
There's a person in the way. Maybe it's an Intrepid Reporter, or one of those Meddling Kids. It would be convenient if this inconvenient individual could be removed from the picture... permanently. But a murder rap would really make things even more inconvenient, especially if you're a Villain with Good Publicity who really cannot afford bad publicity. So your primary option as a Big Bad is to hire someone to take care of this little problem. But it can't look like murder, and it can't just be a mysterious death.
So what's the alternative? Make It Look Like An Accident. The villain or other inconvenienced party tells an assassin or other person that the inconvenient person has to die in a way that looks like an unfortunate happenstance, so suspicion will not fall on themselves or anyone else.
Note that the simple invocation of this trope is usually considered justification enough that the villains are playing by "real world rules", even if what they actually do can't be construed as being an accident by any stretch of the imagination.
This trope is probably thought of by many soon-to-be murderers, and so, a Truth in Television. Remember, just because it was ruled as an accident doesn't necessarily mean it truly was. Heh...heh...heh...
One reason a character may do this is to quickly gain their inheritance. In America (and many other countries), a person convicted of a crime is forbidden by law to keep any money they make as a result of the crime, so anyone killing for inheritance or a life insurance payout would probably try to make it seem like an accidental death.
Often used as a method of attempting to Murder the Hypotenuse, and as an excuse not to just shoot the bastard. If made to look like a death by animal attack, This Bear Was Framed. A more elaborate military murder, with the same intent, is the Uriah Gambit. Similar to the inverted form of Murder by Mistake, in which a murder is dressed up to look as if the killer got the wrong victim. When the villains want to make it look like someone else did the killing, it's a Frame-Up.
- Jeremy plots (and succeeds) at this in A Cruel God Reigns by Vehicular Sabotage-ing Greg's car. He also ends up killing his mother Sandra in the process which causes him to suffer from some pretty bad My God, What Have I Done?.
- In Death Note, Light makes the deaths he wants to hide look like accidents (such as the bus-hijacking incident). The deaths he wants attributed to him, or at least his persona of Kira, are heart attacks. Also inverted, as his stated long-term plan is for people to slowly become aware that he's killing non-criminals as well in subtler ways, which can't be distinguished from regular deaths. Once every single death is suspected of being his handiwork for that person's hidden sins, nobody will dare strive for less than perfection, creating a utopia and everything will go just as planned.
- Many, MANY murder cases in Detective Conan are at first believed to be accidents. Then Conan (and sometimes other detectives) start digging in...
- Cruelly subverted in Fullmetal Alchemist. This is what Kimblee was supposed to do to Urey and Sara Rockbell, so the military would not be forced to waste resources ensuring their protection as humanitarians of their nation. He didn't get the chance, though: their last patient was a mentally and physically broken Scar, who had absolutely no control over his newfound powers, and ended up killing the Rockbells himself.
- In Future GPX Cyber Formula, Smith makes Hayato's father's car crash to make it look like he lost control of his car in order to obtain Asurada's documents so he can use it to make Asurada a weapon of mass destruction. Thankfully, Schumacher reveals the truth while he's recuperating from the incident with Smith.
- Pulled on the Minister of Justice in Gasaraki, courtesy of Kazukiyo Gowa.
- When the corrupt courts let a murderer go free and almost convict Togusa for trying to prevent the murder in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the episode ends with a clerk at the garage of Section 9 watching a news segment about a man and his attorney being involved in a hit-and-run car accident. At the same time Bouma returns and leaves her the keys to a damaged car, saying that it needs to be scrapped and she should "lose the paperwork on it, too." She just nods and barely looks up.
- Gunslinger Girl:
- It's strongly implied that Jean Croce had Raballo murdered and disguised it as a traffic accident, when Raballo tried to expose (and presumably shut down) the SWA.
- This is Angelica's backstory. Her parents decided to run her over with their own car, in an attempt to cash on her insurance. They failed in making it look like an accident though, and Angelica ended up in the SWA.
- In Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Yazan Gable pulls this when he gets Emma Sheen to fire at him, than dodges so that the blast will hit Jamaican, whom he hated.
- Within Stellvia of the Universe, this is Ayaka's solution to anybody who she views as a threat to her status at the best student. She takes the unwitting rival on "practice", where "accidents" occur.
- In Afterlife with Archie Cheryl's jealous brother Jason killed her puppy as a child but made it look like she had accidentally choked on her leash.
- In All Fall Down, AIQ Squared's plot involves this, Siphon, and a Power Nullifier on the moon.
- In Drowntown, Grace Carter (a Dirty Cop) tries to dispose of Leo in a way that won't be identified as murder. Since he's frequently drunk, she figures that drowning him in sludge will work — people will just assume he fell in. When Leo manages to avoid that, she considers upgrading it to a bash on the head (again from "falling down drunk"), but she gets killed by a third party before enacting it.
- Enemy Ace: In War in Heaven- Book 2", shortly after being shot down, and parachuting into the Dachau concentration camp, Von Hammer gives a speech to the men in the airfield telling them to stop fighting and to stop supporting the Nazi regime. When Engels, an ardent Nazi, points a gun at him and is about to shoot after Von Hammer calls Hitler a "piece of excrement," Von Hammer's wingman kills Engels with a burst of the quadruple 30mm cannons of an Me-262 fighter jet, while "testing" the firing mechanism that he thought wasn't loaded.
- Nemesis the Warlock: Before his trial, Torquemada's followers assassinate the alien members of the jury in fatal tube "accidents".
- In Preacher's backstory, Starr is ordered to kill a defector from the Grail who has currently been committed to a mental hospital because nobody believes his stories about ancient conspiracies. He is asked to make the death as non-suspicious as possible, lest people start taking the man seriously. Starr then subverts the heck out of this trope by blowing up the entire institution, killing all the staff and patients that were there that day. He justifies his action by saying that no matter how inconspicuous and innocent he made the guy's death look, it might still look suspicious to someone. With the hospital blown up entirely, any investigation would have to try to first see if it was an accident or not, whether it might be some kind of terrorism, and then try to check for a motive that would cause someone to want to kill any of the patients or employees that were in the institution. To any such investigator, their target's story would sound like just one more deranged fantasy from a disturbed mind, and there would be no more reason to follow up on it than on the delusions of any of the dozens of paranoid schizophrenics who also died in the explosion.
- Red Ears: A shamelessly adulterous woman tells her husband that she's having an affair with his best friend during a car ride, declaring her intent to divorce him and demanding possession of their house, their bank accounts, and full custody of their children. He's fine with it, since he only needs one thing (as he's driving up at full speed towards a concrete wall): he's got his seatbelt on.
- Long after Damian learns that he does not need to kill the current Robin to become part of the family, and even after Dick gives him the Robin mantle, Damian routinely sabotages Tim’s equipment in ways that could kill him including cutting the line in his Grappling-Hook Pistol and damaging his glider cape.
- Garfield hires a dog to get rid of Nermal and use the trope. However, the dog finds Nermal too cute to be harmed.
- Garfield's "struggle between good and evil": "Should I kick Odie off the table? Or sorta accidentally bump him off the table?"
- The Far Side has a dog hiring a "hit elephant" to get rid of a cat and "make it look like an accident".
- Modesty Blaise: In "Children of Lucifer", two henchmen are told to dispose of a defector who is fleeing on skis, and to make it look like an accident. They do this by forcing her into a tree, then knocking her out and leaving her to freeze to death. This probably would have worked if their forceful attempts to stop Modesty going down the same ski run hadn't aroused her suspicions.
- The side stories for A Brief History of Equestria showed that this was Princess Platinum's preferred way of dealing with those she felt endangered her plans for Equestria's future. Ultimately, she even did this to herself.
- In Dirty Sympathy Klavier and Apollo always faced this threat early in the story. Kristoph would "hypothesize" what would happen if Apollo goes missing and Klavier knows that with Daryan's connections he can make it look like an accident. It nearly comes true when Klavier is nearly strangled to death by a "set malfunction".
- A variant is used non-maliciously in the Hyrule Warriors fanfic In Sotto Voce. The previous Zelda, Zelda's mother, was Driven to Suicide due to being forced into a loveless marriage by her family, who didn't like her affair with a Sheikah woman. The king, the current Zelda's father and the previous Zelda's husband, decided to tell everyone that his wife died of an illness instead. Princess Zelda is one of the few who knows because she's the one who found her mother dead.
- In Mega Man Reawakened, Wily planned an explosion to kill Dr. Light, but ended up killing Robert's father instead.
- In Olivia Goes West, a crossover between The Great Mouse Detective and An American Tail, Professor Ratigan and Cat R. Waul employ this tactic in order to get rid of the snooping little kids Fievel Mousekewitz and Olivia Flaversham before they can ruin their carefully forged imago used to enthrall Green River's mouse community. They find out that Fievel has a secret raft in the eponymous river area where he's not supposed to go. When the children go to one of their rafting escapees, they are ambushed by the bad guys, trapped in the raft without oars and sent to float down the dangerous part of the river, cultivating them to fall down a waterfall (from which they survive though). Ratigan and Waul then feed Green River's people a sob story that the children lost their oars while rafting and couldn't be saved in time. To make it believable, both of the villains tarnish themselves with the muddy river and claim that they tried to find any trace of the children downriver. Finally, they present Fievel's hat and Olivia's bow they forcibly took, claiming them to be all they could find. The entire scheme is successful until Fievel and Olivia return weeks later and expose the villains' lies.
- In Worldwar: War of Equals this is implied to be the fate of Hugo Chavez.
- In An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, during the train ride to Green Acres, Fievel stumbles upon the cats discussing their plan to eat the mice in Green Acres. He's discovered, but instead of killing him outright, Cat R. Waul recognizes that a freak disappearance would raise too many questions and lets the mouse go. The minute he's gone, Waul instructs his lackey Chula to make sure Fievel falls off the train;
Cat R. Waul: Give him the Flying Ahh, and make it good.
- Ballerina: During the story's climax, Camille's mother tries to kill Félicie and somehow hopes to pass her victim's death as accidental.
- In Frozen, Prince Hans reveals that he planned to "stage an accident" for Queen Elsa after marrying Princess Anna, to get closer to the throne. When Anna is accidentally cursed by Elsa's ice powers, Hans uses this as an excuse to leave her for dead and then execute Elsa on grounds of having murdered her little sister, taking the throne himself.
- This is part of Scar's bastardry in The Lion King, when he murders his brother Mufasa and convinces Simba that his father died an accident for which Simba was to blame.
- In The Secret of NIMH, this is how Jenner almost gets away with murder.
- This trope is the premise of Accident, Hong-Kong movie about a group of assassins who specialize on creating very cunning circumstances that lead to target's death.
- Angels with Dirty Faces (1938).
Frazier: I don't care how you handle Sullivan. But it's got to look like an accident with that priest.
- Variation in military/mystery movie Basic, where Drill Sergeant Nasty West uses this as a threat to all of the potential recruits looking to get into his elite Ranger unit.
West: Those of you I find lacking will quit. And those of you who refuse to quit will have a training accident. This base suffers three training accidents a year. Unfortunate accidents that I will not hesitate to repeat if you cross me!
- In Big Game, this is how one of the characters is disposed of – his neck is broken on a bathroom sink and soap is put on his shoes and the floor to make it look as if he slipped and fell.
- Also spoofed in Outpost: Black Sun. Wallace is talking to the protagonist, a woman from a family of Nazi Hunters.
- The Blue Max: When the German High Command learns that fighter pilot and propaganda hero Lt. Bruno Stachel claimed two kills that weren't his and challenged another pilot to contest of skill that resulted in his death, they give him the job of test-flying a dangerous deathtrap monoplane fighter. They even instruct him to push the new plane to its limits, guaranteeing that it will crash and kill him.
- In Blue Thunder, Murphy's rival Colonel Cochrane attempts to kill him by sabotaging his helicopter during an evaluation flight.
- Variation in The Bourne Identity:
Conklin: You were supposed to kill him in such a way that the only possible explanation was that it was done by a member of his own faction!
- The Bourne Legacy. The government arranges the deaths of everyone in Outcome through a variety of methods. The enhanced agents are given pills which cause aneurysms, Shearing's lab looks like a workplace shooting by a colleague who just snapped, and Bourne's handler from the previous film died of a suspicious heart attack. Cross and the other agent in Alaska just get a drone strike, because they're in such a remote location that witnesses are a non-issue. There's also a Nightmare Fuel scene where the female protagonist has her own gun forced to her head; fortunately our hero turns up just in time to stop her from becoming an apparent suicide.
- The 1978 Conspiracy Thriller Brass Target has corrupt U.S. officers hiring a professional killer to fake General Patton's death in an automobile accident, to stymie an investigation into stolen Nazi Gold.
- In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it's revealed that the car accident that killed Howard and Maria Stark, Tony Stark's parents, was actually an assassination arranged by HYDRA. Captain America: Civil War reveals that the brainwashed Bucky was the triggerman.
- One of the villains in the Bruiceploitation flick The Clones of Bruce Lee does this - after one of the titular Bruce Lee clones infiltrates a movie shoot (actually a front for a gold smuggling racket) as a martial arts stuntsman, the director realizes that the clone could be a government agent and schemes to have him shot on-camera through a staged weapons malfunction... which sort of becomes a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment when you recall what happened to Bruce's son, Brandon...
- Dan Brown's Inferno. The Provost suggests they wrap matters up by making it look like Langdon was killed in a mugging. Later Langdon has a front-row seat on the Provost arranging a similar scenario with Agent Bouchard's body.
- In the Warren Beatty Dick Tracy, Big Boy Caprice orders Tracy killed and he was assured by Flattop and Itchy that they can make it look like an accident. (Big Boy doesn't dare Just Shoot Him, because if Tracy were found murdered, he'd be the prime suspect.) Just how they can make a person found dead tied to a chair in a boiler room that had exploded look like an accident is never explained.
- The murderers in Double Indemnity have to make the death look like an accident – specifically, a train accident – in order to collect the insurance money they're after. It ultimately fails.
- In Dredd Ma-Ma orders her mooks to make it look like the Judges walked in on a gang turf war and were shot in the cross fire. In the Crapsack World of the movie, it would count as an 'accidental' death.
- Played with in The Eiger Sanction. Hemlock is an assassin sent on a climbing expedition in the belief that one of them is The Mole. When he's the Sole Survivor after the expedition goes wrong, his superior assumes he decided to Kill Them All, and congratulates him. Hemlock decides Sure, Let's Go with That, but when his companion asks if all the climbers really did die accidentally, he avoids the question.
- A Film with Me in It features the inverse; a whole load of people die in a Disaster Dominoes-prone flat in ways that are all completely accidental and which the protagonist had absolutely nothing to do with, but all happen to be either people who the protagonist would have a reason to murder, die in such a way that no one would possibly believe that the poor protagonist didn't murder them, or both.
- Throughout A Fish Called Wanda, Ken attempts to kill a witness to a robbery while making it look like an accident. Unfortunately, he ends up accidentally killing her various pet dogs. Ironically, the death of the third dog causes her to have a fatal heart attack - which was then completely and entirely accidental, despite Ken's deliberate murder attempts.
- The Fugitive. Richard Kimble thinks his wife's murder is the result of a botched robbery attempt. Only as the film progresses does he learn that it was an orchestrated hit. Later on, it's mentioned that a co-conspirator died in a hit-and-run car accident and strongly implied that this was a hit as well.
- The protagonist of The Ghost Writer believes that his predecessor's suicide was in fact murder made to look like a suicide. When it's mentioned that a potential witness is in the hospital following a fall down the stairs, it's heavily implied that this is a similar scenario.
- In The Godfather, Don Vito Corleone warns the Dons of the other four families that if his son Michael meets with an accident on the way back from Sicily, he will assume that at least one of them was responsible and restart the Mob War put on hold after Sonny's death. He goes so far as to explicitly include Michael committing suicide, being shot by the police, or even being hit by lightning.
- In the game, there are at least three people you're asked to kill this way. For one of them, you're asked to throw him off a high ledge then plant a used bottle of alcohol nearby, making it seem as though he fell off while drunk.
- The villains of Hot Fuzz focus almost entirely on murdering people in such a way that it looks like an accident, to the point where the local police have been effectively brainwashed into reporting nearly every death as an accident without conducting a proper investigation It helps that the killers include both the Chief of Police and the local doctor, who doubles as the forensic pathologist, plus the entire neighbourhood watch. Poor Nicholas Angel is the Only Sane Man who believes otherwise. The fourth murder is actually witnessed by Angel and despite that, and the fact that she has a pair of shears stuck in her throat, the police still don't believe it wasn't an accident.
- In The Housemaid (2010), Hae-ra's mother feigns a stumble to knock over the ladder that Eun-yi is on while cleaning the second-floor chandelier. It fools no one in the house.
- Justified in The Howling. Karen White is a famous anchorwoman, and would definitely be missed.
- In The Hunt for Red October, Ramius kills Political Officer Putin and makes it look like he slipped on tea, as a prelude to his defection.
- The Iceman. Kuklinski and Pronge use pure cyanide to simulate the effects of a heart attack.
- Has happened in several James Bond films, presumably to try and justify Bond Villain Stupidity or Why Don't You Just Shoot Him??. They are rarely if ever referenced as such, though, so they tend to get lumped in with the other over-the-top murder attempts.
- In You Only Live Twice, SPECTRE agent Number 11 gets Bond into a plane under the ruse that she is betraying her employer...then jumps out with a parachute after trapping him, leaving him to die in a plane crash.
- In Moonraker, Chang first tries to murder Bond by sabotaging the Zero-G astronaut training he was taking part in (the Bond girl believes something had went wrong with the controls), and later Drax himself tries to have him shot and make it look like a hunting accident. Both attempts take place when Bond was on Drax's property as a guest and, when Bond leaves, later attempts are even more over-the-top but not set-up as accidents.
Hugo Drax: Look after Mr. Bond. See that some harm comes to him.
- In A View to a Kill, Zorin, playing a bit of Xanatos Speed Chess, takes advantage of a break-in by Bond and the Bond girl into City Hall, where the Bond girl worked under a Sleazy Politician in Zorin's pay, who had recently fired her. Zorin kills the guy and forces the pair into an elevator before setting the building on fire, making it look like they were responsible but were killed by the flames trying to escape.
- In GoldenEye, Bond and Natalya are strapped down in a stolen helicopter linked to the hijacking of a Kill Sat, and the missiles are set to fire and then return back at them. They escape before the explosion, but the Russian authorities show up immediately, and the Minister of Defence accuses them of being involved in both. Presumably, they were supposed to find only the bodies and assume that the two of them were the criminals they were after, and write the whole thing off as a weapon malfunction.
- While being interrogated by the Minister of Defence, Natalya revealed that General Ourumov was behind the theft of the helicopter and the destruction of the Goldeneye base. Ourumov crashes the interrogation, kills the Minister, and states his plan to make it look like Bond and Natalya killed the Minister and were then shot while escaping.
- In Tomorrow Never Dies, Elliot Carver sends a hitman to kill Bond and his treacherous wife and make it look like a murder-suicide- he even had a taped news story made in advance. Bond is too late to save the girl but turns the tables and shoots Dr. Kaufman, at close range, making his death look like the suicide. It's heavily implied that this wasn't the only "suicide" Kaufman was responsible for while working for Carver.
Doctor Kaufman: I am a professor of forensic medicine. Believe me, Mr. Bond, I could shoot you from Stuttgart und still create ze proper effect.
- Killer Elite has the sheik request this specifically, so the SAS won't retaliate after the assassinations are carried out. The problem is he wants confessions from the victims as well, complicating the assignment.
- In Lethal Weapon 2, The Dragon, Vorstedt, reveals that Riggs' wife's death was not an accident after all and that he sabotaged the brakes to make her car go off the road, as he was trying to kill Riggs himself (who was not in the car).
- The 1966 Black Comedy Lord Love a Duck takes an unexpectedly somber turn when Barbara's Lady Drunk mother kills herself. Alan discovers her, and, to make things easier for Barbara, sets it up to make it look accidental.
- The Boss in Lucky Number Slevin hires Good Kat to assassinate The Rabbi's son. He doesn't care if it looks exactly like an accident, it just can't look like a professional hit since the Rabbi will go to war if he knows the Boss was responsible. Goodkat's plan is to get some schmuck off the street to perform the actual killing, then kill the killer and stage the bodies so it looks like a mutual suicide pact. Except it turns out Goodkat is arranging everything behind the scenes, and just kills the Rabbi's son as another part in his scheme of revenge on the two crime lords. And the "schmuck" is actually his partner.
- The specialty of the Villain Protagonist in the Charles Bronson film The Mechanic (1972). Likewise with Jason Statham in the remake. Both movies though (once they've established their characters) end up with gunplay for Rule of Cool reasons.
- My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Nick Portokalos: I've never seen my sister this happy, Ian. If you hurt her, I'll kill you and make it look like an accident.
- Parodied in Mystery Men, where the father of the Bowler "Fell down an elevator shaft... onto some bullets."
Blue Rajah: Yes, I've always suspected a bit of foul play there...
The Bowler: As have I.
- The villains of North by Northwest try to kill Roger Thornhill, who they think is George Kaplan, an enemy spy, by pumping him full of whisky and making him drive a fast car on a cliff's edge. It doesn't work.
- The Dragon in Paycheck kills a scientist making it look like he fell out of his apartment window. Nobody buys it. The agent in charge of the investigation even lampshades this by claiming that he died of natural causes, "natural" being gravity.
- In A Place in the Sun, George plans to murder Alice by throwing her into the lake and pretending that it was a boating accident. It doesn't pan out good for him.
- An inversion appears in Practical Magic. Sally is trying to get her sister Gillian safely away from abusive boyfriend Jimmy Angelov. Sally accidentally poisons him (she was only trying to put him to sleep), but the police officer who shows up believes it was a straight-up murder attempt.
- Cobras, the villain of Puma Man, uses the golden mask to make the eponymous hero commit suicide; when his henchmen arrive to confirm the death, he uses this as an excuse to keep them from just shooting him, not wanting to draw suspicion to himself. Of course, he doesn't know that the hero is Faking the Dead via a heretofore-unmentioned superpower. As as pointed out later, the whole thing was moot since Cobras is mind-controlling the police.
- In Push, Hook Waters' wife died in a car accident. Except his wife didn't drive. He knew immediately that Division was involved and left the country.
- Averted in Rollerball (1975). The protagonist refuses to get on the helicopter taking him to his next game, as he's afraid of this trope. It's later revealed that the corporation has rejected the idea as it's important that Jonathan die during the game, as the purpose of Rollerball is to demonstrate the futility of individual effort.
- Inverted in Salvation Boulevard where it really is an accident, but they attempt to make it look like a suicide.
- The Shawshank Redemption: Apparently Tommy was killed by Hadley during the former's "failed escape attempt". Andy knows better. Presumably, the beating death of "Fat Ass" is covered-up in the same way.
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: Once outside the Rura Penthe shield, Marta mentions this as such but the conspirators required a more "convincing" alternative.
Kirk: An accident wasn't good enough.
Marta: Good enough for one. Two would have looked suspicious. [transforms into Kirk] Killed while trying to escape. Now that's convincing enough for both.
- Star Wars: In A New Hope, the Jawas who sold R2-D2 and C-3PO to Owen and Beru Lars get slaughtered by Imperial Stormtroopers, who make it look like the Tusken Raiders were responsible by leaving gaderfii sticks and bantha tracks behind.
- In Sunrise, a farmer and his mistress plot to drown his wife and make it look like an accident.
- Inverted in Tragedy Girls. The protagonists murder people so they can report on it for their true crime website, and are thus really irritated when the cops keep ruling their deaths as accidents. They wind up dismembering the corpse of one of their victims, just so there's no way anyone can deny it was murder.
- Also hilariously inverted in the Hillbilly Horrors parody Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil. When Tucker tries to tell the truth to the sheriff, it comes across as a very weak attempt at this:
Tucker: We have had a doozy of a day. There we were, uh, mindin' our own business, makin' some improvements to my new house, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, these kids start killin' themselves all over my property.
Sheriff: You must think that I'm some kind of moron to believe a story like that.
- In the second WarGames movie, a scientist is hit by a car while jogging but it was an assassination made to look like an accident.
- The Wild Geese II. The mercenaries plan to stage a car accident with the Vulnerable Convoy carrying Rudolf Hess, then carry him off in a fake ambulance. The driver they hire to fake the crash says he can use a specially reinforced car, but they insist it has to look real, so he uses an ordinary vehicle and gets killed.
- "Dad! My teacher today called me a mobster!"
"Mobster eh? Don't worry, tomorrow he will pay for that insult."
"OK, dad, but make it look like an accident."
- How many cops does it take to push a person down the stairs?
None, he fell.
- Able Team. In "Texas Showdown", Carl Lyons is forced to kill a guard who catches him snooping around the Big Bad's headquarters. Because he's The Mole in their operation, Carl has to make it look like the man died in a house fire, so uses the wires from a video recorder (activated by its timer) to start a short circuit. However this unreliable method goes off too late, after the body has been discovered.
- As might be imagined by the title, Carver of The Accident Man does this to bad men to create highly deniable operations.
- Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle (a Girl Genius novel): When Tarvek witnesses Higgs casually destroy the Muse of Protection before it can say too much, he realizes that there are about a dozen ways Higgs can kill him and make it look like just a random accident. The rock that could have cracked his skull, the live wire that could have electrocuted him, the clank itself... he agrees with Higgs' Blatant Lies very quickly.
- Occurs in some of the Alex Rider books, including the death of a business man made to look like he missed his footing stepping into an elevator, and the mass-murder plans of some of the villains.
- Arrivals from the Dark: In Envoy from the Heavens, Trevelyan visits the ruler of a minor province out in the boondocks. The ruler, named Rabban, is not a young man anymore and has no heir. He does have a recently-widowed sister, however, who catches the eye of an exiled Imperial nobleman named Alaja-Tsor. Trevelyan muses that, had Rabban's sister accepted the marriage proposal, Rabban wouldn't be long for this world, probably meeting his end as a result of a Hunting "Accident", like maybe a stray arrow in his head.
- In Matt Ruff's Bad Monkeys, the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons (aka "Bad Monkeys") which kills people who are determined to be truly evil, use "NC guns". The NC guns cause the person that is aimed at to die of natural causes such as heart attack or stroke, hence the name.
- Ira Levin's The Boys from Brazil (and The Film of the Book) has Nazis doing this, because the clone Hitlers need to lose their father under similar circumstances to the real one.
- Codex Alera: Max has been dodging "accidents" for years, courtesy of a Wicked Stepmother who wants the inconvenient bastard son out of the way. His mother already succumbed to one, and he's spent the intervening years being almost killed by things like a jar of rock salt, which hurts wind furies, falling on him while he's learning to fly and dropping him 30 feet to the ground and a legionaire recruit he's training "inexplicably" having his sword twist out of his hand and fly at Max's neck.
- In the Robin Cook medical thriller Coma, a hitman is given orders to kill medical student Susan Wheeler who has been snooping into suspicious deaths at the hospital. He is instructed to "make it look like a rape", as though Susan were the victim of a random street crime rather than a carefully orchestrated murder.
- In the film:
Kelly: What'd you do that for?
Hitman: They told me to make it look like an accident. [kills him]
- In the film:
- In The Death of Achilles, the Big Bad goes beyond this, deciding that an accident would look much too fishy and arranges for his target to die of a heart attack (by using a very rare poison).
- Debt of Honor: A hitman makes his target appear to have stumbled into traffic.
- In The Destroyer series of adventure novels by Warren Murphy and Richard Ben Sapir, removing problems that cannot be removed legally by "making it look like an accident" is the entire reason for Remo Williams' existence.
- The Dresden Files: An Entropy Curse tends to cause deaths like this. Harry notes that the victim effectively dies of what looks like seriously bad luck. And then in Blood Rites, a group of rather unstable women finds a way to work a particularly strong one, and while the deaths caused certainly don't look like intentional murders, they are a LONG way from looking like mundane accidents. A few examples:
- Death by allergic reaction to bee stings – specifically, twenty thousand bees that had somehow swarmed into a car in a couple of minutes.
- Death by gunshot – but the gun had been aimed at someone other than the curse's victim, in the opposite direction and another room from the curse's victim, and the bullet ricocheted more than once before hitting the curse's victim.
- Death by being hit by a car – while waterskiing.*
- Near-death by simultaneous blood loss and electrocution – because the victim was taking a shower which suddenly turned hot on her, causing her to fall through a glass door and slash her throat open, and then a light fixture decided out of nowhere to fall off the ceiling and land in the water with the wires exposed.
- The most prominent example: death by laser-guided frozen turkey, apparently dropped from an airplane. And then the timer dings. This one's implied to be because the curse was channeled through Harry to a new target, picking up his sense of the ridiculous on the way.
Harry: For my next trick, anvils.
- In Stephen King's novel Dolores Claiborne, this is the way Vera advises Dolores to get rid of Joe. She does.
Vera: Husbands die every day, Dolores. Why, one is probably dying right now, while we're sitting here talking. They die and leave their wives their money.
- Vera even hints that she offed her own husband (who died in a car crash) by this line:
Vera: I should know, shouldn't I? After all, look what happened to mine. An accident is sometimes an unhappy woman's best friend.
- Vera even hints that she offed her own husband (who died in a car crash) by this line:
- In Dora Wilk Series, werewolf Bjorn gets rid of two drunk poachers threatening Alina by turning into a wolf, running circles around one of them until he accidentally shoots the other one, and then making him chase the wolf into a rusty bear trap. That's because according to Alina, if bite marks were found on any of the two, her dogs would be put down.
- In the convoluted traditions of combat between Great Houses in the Dune universe, it is considered an extreme breach of protocol to kill a defeated opponent without offering them exile first; violation of this rule may cause the perpetrator to be exterminated by the other Houses, and there are Truthsayers to investigate any suspicious deaths. The solution: issue indirect orders to one's minions (who are unlikely to be subject to Truthsayer questioning) along the lines of, "No bodies must ever be found," and leave it up to their creativity to make the proper arrangements.
- Harry Potter:
- Ron once daydreams about pushing Malfoy off a glacier and making it look like an accident.
- The villains' plot in the fourth book revolves around this kind of plot to kill Harry: make him a contestant in the Triwizard Tournament, then use a time when he's alone during a challenge to murder him. Contestants die all the time in the Tournament, don't they? Subverted, however, as the real plan is to make sure Harry reaches the trophy first, so it can take him to the graveyard where Voldemort's resurrection will take place.
- In Heart's Blood, pretty much every major death at Whistling Tor is made to look like an accident by Muirne.She would have gotten away with it if she hadn't tried to fire trick twice
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Inverted in And Another Thing... where the dragons of Asgard are instructed to kill Zaphod Beeblebrox by accident, and to make it look intentional.
- A favored tactic of the Republic of Haven in the Honor Harrington series is to kill people in "accidental" aircar collisions – that is, when the people in question aren't simply "disappeared".
- This comes back to bite the new government of the Republic in the ass later on when a suspected traitor and his accomplice die in aircar accidents. One of them was arranged by the traitor's foreign paymasters to cover their tracks, and the other was a completely genuine accident, but they both inevitably got blamed on the government.
- A specific non-Peep example occurs in Honor Among Enemies, where someone tries to off Ginger Lewis and pass it off as a suit failure. Unfortunately, the culprit tried too hard by disabling the comm system as well, and any savvy engineer knows that those two systems aren't connected.
- The Hunger Games: President Snow uses the threat of killing the victors' families and loved ones like this to keep them in line and to make them do as he says. This is what happened to Haymitch's family and girlfriend after his Games, and it's implied to have happened to everyone Johanna loved. But even Snow admits that if he did this to Katniss herself because of her "stunt with the berries", no one would buy it.
- The protagonist of Barry Eisler's John Rain series specializes in making assassinations look like accidental and (especially) natural deaths. The first kill he performs involves using a Palm Pilot to turn off a guy's pacemaker.
- Once the heroes capture The Mole in Lammas Night, they realize they can't just have him locked up — yes, one of their members is in British Intelligence, but if their prisoner says anything about what he knows it will be impossible to prevent scandal. He gets a lethal overdose of the sedative they've been using as a DIY truth serum, and they stage a car crash. (Those British Intelligence connections keep an autopsy from being performed.)
- Played with in The Man Who Never Was: the Germans have to be convinced that a dead guy washed up on the Spanish coast with a suitcase full of Allied battle plans is a courier, and the battle plans are the Real Stuff. The book (and subsequent film) were based on the real-life Operation Mincemeat, which went to extraordinary lengths to Make It Look Like an Accident. It isn't this trope straight because the body that was used was that of a man who had died of pneumonia – there was no murder at all.
- In the Sidney Sheldon novel Master of the Game, matriarch Kate notes that her granddaughter Alexandra is very accident-prone. When she discovers what an evil bitch her granddaughter Eve (Alexandra's twin) is, she suddenly realizes what the reader has known for pages – that all of Alexandra's "accidents" were Eve's attempts at killing her, starting when the girls were only 5.
- In Murderer's Row, Matt Helm, undercover as a Mafia hitman, pretends to take a contract to kill a man's wife. The husband says nervously "It will look like an accident, won't it?" Helm says "One day I'm going to have somebody ask me to do a murder that looks like a murder–"
- In an early Nero Wolfe novel, The League of Frightened Men, the suspected murderer has sworn vengeance against a group of men who inadvertently crippled him. The first two deaths look like accidents. Subverted, in that they actually are accidents, which the "murderer" has simply implied he's responsible for.
- Newsflesh has a lot of this.
- In the first book, Feed, The Ryman Ranch and the convoy group were made to look like accidents.
- In the second book, Deadline, most recent deaths of people with reservoir conditions were made to look like accidents.
- A professional driver/hitman tries to kill Bob Lee Swagger's daughter by ramming her car off a mountain road in Night of Thunder.
- Number the Stars. Annemarie's older sister, Lise, was hit by a car and died. In the end, it is revealed that she was intentionally hit by the Nazis, being part of La Résistance.
- In Out of the Dark:
- One of the Hegemony's more pragmatic founding races basically tells the Shongairi that they'll look the other way if humanity doesn't happen to make it through this.
- Later, when the Shongairi decide we're too dangerous to use as slaves, they plan to make the release of their bioweapon look like an accident to deflect political fallout.
- Discussed in the Paladin of Shadows series. Though the Keldara never do it onscreen, they have a habit of making Kildars that are unworthy die mysterious deaths.
- This is what the killer in the Phryne Fisher mystery Murder in Montparnasse tries to do. He crushes one victim beneath a car so it looks like the jack slipped while he was working under it, and gets another drunk and drowns him in an irrigation ditch.
- The protagonists of the Iceland plotline in Red Storm Rising attempt to make it look like a KGB patrol they ambushed died as a result of being drunk and driving off a cliff. Unfortunately, the stabbing damage to the body armor of one of the patrol members strongly suggests that their fate wasn't purely accidental.
- Selena Mead has a variant: When spy Simon Mead is murdered, his teammates disguise the death as a car accident.
- In the Dale Brown novel Shadows of Steel, this is done with airplanes and military equipment. It Makes Sense in Context, but is justified in that the guy ordering it had to dance around the political sensitivities of traditional, highly visible overt action while still wanting to hurt the other side. It works.
- Older Than Television courtesy of Sherlock Holmes. Appears to be a common MO for Moriarty's organization, along with "make it look like a much more small-time criminal is responsible".
NO ONE KNOWS HOW ACCIDENT OCCURRED.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: Given the cut-and-thrust nature of politics in this series, expect this to turn up a fair bit: eating, drinking, having sex, going hunting, taking part in sporting events, getting ill, using poorly maintained infrastrucure... all these turn up as rather suspiciously convenient ends.
- These kinds or murders are the speciality of the Faceless Men, a religious cult of extremely skilled assassins.
- Robert Baratheon's death was caused by a boar on a hunting trip, after being given far too much wine by a Lannister servant.
- Earlier there was a plot to bump him off in a melee tournament, but that failed because he'd gotten too fat to fit his armor.
- It's heavily implied that Balon Greyjoy's death (by falling off a rope bridge) was orchestrated by his brother Euron.
- Cersei kills the second High Septon (the old one) by having a lackey smother him in his sleep, and blaming his death on old age. This backfires for her greatly.
- Jon Arryn's death from sickness was actually the result of Lysa Arryn poisoning him on behalf of Petyr Baelish.
- Randyll Tarly threatens to kill his son in a Hunting "Accident" if he does not join the monk-like Night's Watch and revoke his inheritance.
- Jaqen H'ghar (who is a Faceless Man) kills two Lannister henchmen this way, making the first death look like the victim fell off of a battlement, and the second death look like the victim was mauled by his own dog turned rabid.
- The use of the poison known as "the Strangler" in Joffrey's death was a case of a double-bluff/ Xanatos Gambit deliberately using this trope as a smokescreen. Had it gone undetected: great... people would think he probably died choking on his pie or wine (a few would always question it). If it got detected: great... most people would think it was a case of deliberately trying to make it look like he died on pie or wine to confuse exactly who among his haters killed him aka "a perfectly normal political death using very bog-standard tactics". If people started pointing fingers in dangerous directions... great: out come the carefully pre-prepared Scapegoats you've wanted politically discredited or isolated for a while to further muddy the waters. All the floating question marks surrounding his death are a design feature, not a bug.
- Star Wars Legends: General Grievous' backstory is given in Labyrinth of Evil: To put him in debt to the Confederacy and make him even more dangerous, Count Dooku staged a non-lethal shuttle crash, then offered to rebuild him as a cyborg in exchange for his service.
- Terra Ignota: The Saneer-Weeksbooth bash', the members of which are responsible for the running and safety of the world's Flying Car system, has been involved in a conspiracy to stage car crashes and other accidents to kill off minor, unimportant relatives of famous people in order to calm down riots and other dangerous world events for the past 244 years. They went so far as to stage the deadly boat accident involving their own bash' parents. The Utopians are noted to be immune to being murdered in this manner; since they have their own Flying Car system and investigate any Utopian death with a single-minded fervor, no one wants to risk getting them involved.
- The drowning of Camille in Thérèse Raquin is made to look like Camille just fell out of the boat and couldn't swim rather than a murder.
- In one of the Track novels by Jerry Ahern, Track finds a New Old Flame has been murdered by her husband, who shot her in the guts so she'd die slowly and it would look like a robbery gone bad. When Track shoots the husband he says, "I don't care what this looks like at all."
- David Gerrold's The War Against the Chtorr. The Uncle Ira Group attempts to kill two birds with one stone via this method. The rest of the world refuses to take the Alien Invasion seriously, arguing that the Chtorrans aren't particularly dangerous, while protagonist Jim McCarthy has unwittingly drawn attention to their secret organisation by publicly arguing otherwise. So they order McCarthy to stand guard at a public showing of a captured Chtorran worm, which 'accidentally' escapes from its cage and starts eating the delegates. Fortunately McCarthy took the trouble to practise with his newly-issued flechette rifle and succeeds in bringing down the creature on live television. Because McCarthy is now a hero, the Uncle Ira group makes the best of a bad situation and makes him a permanent member of their organisation instead.
- Done a few times in the Warrior Cats series:
- Tigerclaw attempted this a couple of times: first the Thunderpath trap to try and get Bluestar to run onto the Thunderpath, and then when he told Fireheart to cross a branch over a flooded stream and then knocked it loose. Even Fireheart wasn't sure whether it was an accident or not until he noticed the way Tigerclaw was looking at him later.
- Darkstripe gave Sorrelkit deathberries to eat; if Graystripe hadn't seen what happened, every cat would have just assumed she found the berries and didn't know what they were.
- The Smith brothers try to do this to James Bond in the Young Bond novel Double or Die; he is force-fed a bottle of gin and they attempt to throw him into the Thames so that he'll drown.
- Pretty much every Real Life or fictional cop show will feature criminals who try to invoke varying versions of this. Accident, suicide, self-defense, "someone else did it", etc.
- It's a very common subplot of cop shows and medical shows for someone to have injured or killed themselves but try to invoke this trope because their insurance will either not pay their families in the event of a suicide, or even if they will note , the family will get more money for an accidental death.
- 3rd Rock from the Sun:
- Dick suggested they kill Judith and make it look like an accident. When Mary refused, he replied "We're not going to make it look like an accident?!"
- A later episode delivered this gem when referring to Evil Dick:
Tommy: How should we get rid of him? You're the weapons expert!
Sally: That doesn't mean I can just frag him with a grenade launcher while he's in the shower!
Harry: Why not? People explode in showers all the time!
- On The 100, the Council needs to kill 300 people to conserve oxygen on the Ark. They believe people would panic if they knew the government was planning to kill them, though, so they plan to make it look like life-support just happened to fail for a large section of the Ark.
- In The Adventures of Superman episode "The Defeat of Superman", the crooks plan to throw Lois and Jimmy's car over a cliff to make it look like they crashed.
- A zigzag version in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "The Orderly World of Mr. Appleby" (written by Roald Dahl): Mr. Appleby successfully kills his first wife by making it look like she tripped and fell on a rug (that he pulled out from under her), but his second wife is suspicious and leaves a note with her attorney to call the police should something untoward happen. The attorney calls to check on her, and when going to answer the phone she really does trip on a rug and fall!
- The A-Team:
- In "Bad Time on the Border", Hannibal has infiltrated an operation that sells illegal immigrants as slaves by pretending to be a Mexican man wanting to cross the border. Even when the plan goes off the rails, resulting in him being locked in a Punishment Box, he doesn't break down. Exasperated by Hannibal, the villains decide to put him on the truck with the other immigrants and push him out while it's in motion. That way, he dies, but their bosses can't prove they cut down their profits by killing a potentially valuable slave.
- In "Lease With an Option to Die", twice Plout's men try to destroy the building and kill the tenants in a way that looks accidental; the first time they overload the electrical circuits with too many plugs, setting the building alight and the second time, they set a bomb to blow up the boiler.
- Vice-president Clark used a staged accident to remove President Santyago in Babylon 5. Evidence is later discovered and shown to the public using a pirate news channel, resulting in a civil war.
- The Big Bang Theory: Leonard threatens Sheldon with this after getting fed up with his latest insane stunt (staying in his room and interacting with the world via TV Head Robot).
Sheldon: At my age, do you know how I'm statistically most likely to die?
Leonard: At the hands of your roommate?
Sheldon: An accident.
Leonard: That's how I'm gonna make it look.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine: An odder version than normal.
Bob: I was gonna throw Raymond over the side and make it look like a bird-watching accident.
Jake: Oh, please, do you think anyone's gonna actually—
Holt: It's genius. There's a red-tailed hawk roost a block away, and I've got a pair of micro-binoculars in my pocket, like a fool.
Jake: Okay, well, I stand corrected.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Dead Things", Warren Mears makes Buffy believe she killed Katrina by accident.
- In the Angel spin-off, our vampire detective hero corners some suspects at a shooting range. They announce that Angel is about to die from an accidental discharge. Unfortunately for them a vampire is Immune to Bullets.
- In one episode "Rm w/ a Vu", when in 1946 where Maude met her demise after she finished trapping her son, Dennis inside a brick wall, she murdered and haunted Margo Dressner in 1959, Jenny Kim in 1965, and Natalie Davis in March 7th, 1994 to make them look like suicides because she mistook her for Dennis' girlfriends. But when Cordelia moved in, turns out that she was mistaken for Dennis' fiancé.
- Cannon: In "Blood on the Vine", a vineyard owner suffers multiple 'accidents' (a falling wine rack, tainted wine, brake failure) in a short space of time, which causes his secretary to hire Cannon to investigate.
- In City Homicide Sean Macready manages to light seven fires over nine years, killing over a dozen children, and each time makes it look like an electrical accident, each time convincing the arson squad.
- The reason why some of the cases on Cold Case went cold in the first place is that the cops didn't even realize it was a murder:
- "Blood on the Tracks". A married couple dies due to an explosion supposedly caused by a gas leak, only for the remnants of a bomb to be discovered 26 years later.
- In "Slipping", the victim is thought to have hung herself after going mad.
- Or even natural causes – in "The Good Death", the victim was thought to have died from a brain tumor, only for it be a Mercy Killing.
- A benevolent variation happens in the episode "Wednesday's Women". The victim is run down, and the victim's friends end up dumping her body near a busy road to make it look like she was accidentally hit by a car. They did this because they got turned away by a racist cop when they tried to get help.
- Columbo: In "Any Old Port in a Storm", the murderer goes to great lengths to make it look like his half-brother died in a scuba diving accident. However, he hadn't reckoned on Columbo's ability to spot little details that don't quite fit, such as the fact the victim had not eaten for two days prior to his death.
- The killer in the Criminal Minds episode "Paradise" tries to do this, but he isn't very good at it.
- Magnificent Bastard Al Swearengen says this early in the first season of Deadwood. Interestingly this is the only time he tries to conceal his involvement in a murder (it doesn't work), most of the time he doesn't care.
Al: Anyways, Sheriff, I'm gonna walk past that bloodstain that mysteriously appeared in my office and go oversee my business interests.
- Defiance: In the Season 2 premiere, a pair of brothers who have been arrested for protesting against the Earth Republic occupation of the town are being escorted to a prison camp when the transport stops so that the driver can pee. The doors to the transport then just so happen to unlock, allowing the brothers to run off... right into Hellbug territory. The number of coincidences required for this sequence of events to play out normally are so staggeringly high that when Amanda accuses Pottinger of having them set up to die in order to send a message, he doesn't even try to defend himself. He then agrees to pardon the surviving brother without so much as an argument, realizing that he may have gone a bit too far.
- Doctor Who:
- In "Boom Town", a reporter mentions to the Lord Mayor Margaret Blaine that nearly everyone opposing her proposed Cardiff nuclear power plant has died in a variety of mysterious accidents.
Cathy Salt: And then just recently Mr. Cleaver, the government's nuclear advisor?
Margaret Blaine: Slipped on an icy patch.
Cathy Salt: He was decapitated!
Margaret Blaine: It was a very icy patch.
- "The End of Time":
"The previous governor met with an 'accident' that took quite some time to arrange."
- In "The Time of Angels", the security officer chasing River Song on board the Byzantium tells his goons to wait for River to run and then shoot her, so it doesn't look like an execution, but rather that she was shot while attempting to flee. Which isn't much better, really.
- In "Boom Town", a reporter mentions to the Lord Mayor Margaret Blaine that nearly everyone opposing her proposed Cardiff nuclear power plant has died in a variety of mysterious accidents.
- In Dollhouse, a woman's murder is made to look like a heart attack using an overdose of a performance-enhancing drug for horses and a masking agent that made it difficult to detect after the fact.
- In Dossier on Detective Dubrovsky villains hire an assassin to kill the attorney-general.
Client: But remember, it must look like an accident and nothing but accident!
Assassin: Don't you worry. It's going to be the most accidental accident possible.
- In "The Rat Race", Donna Kaplan the secretary arranged four accidents and other inconspicuous deaths to climb the corporate ladder.
- In "Flight Risk" Sherlock deduces that one of the the plane crash victims was dead before the plane crashed. It turns out that he stumbled upon the plane being sabotaged, was killed, and stowed away on the it.
- In "A Landmark Story", Sherlock tangles with a contract killer, named Daniel Gottlieb, who specializes in this. He kills one guy by tracking his daily routine and then making it look like a window air conditioner broke loose and fell on his head, and is about to provoke a swarm of Africanized honey bees to attack a jogger when Sherlock catches him refilling their food supply.
- In "Lesser Evils", Sherlock determines that a hospital patient died of an overdose not natural causes. He starts looking at the hospital records and the morgue and determines that many of terminally ill patients died in such a manner, revealing the presence of an "angel of death" (i.e. someone who performs Mercy Kills to spare the patients the suffering). He also discovers that a surgeon deliberately altered a patient's chart to get the "angel of death" to kill her before his mistake is discovered.
- The serial killer M (Sebastian Moran) Sherlock has been tracking for years turns out not to be a serial killer at all. All his gruesome kills are actually hits ordered by Moriarty, some of them done just to make it look like M is a genuine serial killer.
Bob Briscoe: So, Roz, who's the proud papa? You got it narrowed down yet?
Roz: That's nice, very nice. Frasier, will you excuse us?
Frasier: Just remember the baby's future, Roz. Try to make it look like an accident.
- Game of Thrones:
- This is the specialty of Jaqen H'ghar, so long as you don't rush him to make the kill right the hell nownote . Heck, with enough time he'll prop the bodies up so that they look like they're simply standing guard!
- Robert Baratheon falls victim to a Hunting "Accident" facilitated by his wife.
- Jon Arryn dies of a mysterious fever and it's eventually discussed that he was killed using a rare and untraceable poison known as the Tears of Lys. In a devious touch of misdirection, the perpetrators do want people to suspect that he was murdered for knowing too much about Joffrey's real lineage.
- Samwell Tarly joined the Night's Watch because his father threatened to kill him this way.
- Grey's Anatomy
Dr. George O'Malley: He could kill me and make it look like an accident.
- Harrow: In "Peccata Patris" ("Sins of the Father"), the Body of the Week is arranged to make it look like he slipped on a wet boat dock and hit his head on the step. However, there was no algae in the head wound which there should have been, as the step was covered in it.
- The Indian Detective: Gopal orders his own nephew Aarav murdered and has it made to look like a suicide.
- Subverted in an episode of Inspector Morse in which Morse believes the the trope is in play, but it turns out it really was an accident. However, the investigation uncovers an art fraud ring and at least one actual murder takes place during the episode.
- Just Shoot Me!
Nina Van Horn: She'll be gone by the end of the day.
Dennis Finch: Great; just make it look like an accident.
Nina Van Horn: No, no, no! She's leaving on her own.
Dennis Finch: Got it; we never spoke.
- Law & Order: UK: When James Steele's nemesis not-so-subtly threatens his son by reciting the boy's address, he also mentions the "busy roads on his way to school", further insinuating that he could easily invoke this trope and thus avoid prosecution.
- Inverted in "Confession", when the beat cops who found a detective shot to death tried to make his suicide look like murder, knowing that his widow would get more money for this. note
- Inverted in an episode of Life On Mars; a death with all the outward appearance of a murder turns out to have been an accident.
- Lost: Juliet asks Jack to kill Ben during surgery because some of the others want change, "but it has to look like an accident".
- MacGyver (1985): The bad guy in "Deadly Silents" goes to great lengths to make his attempts to kill Pinky and MacGyver look like an accident. After multiple failures, he gives in to his partner's urging of Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?.
- Midsomer Murders: In "The Oblong Murders", one killing was committed by loosening the gas line to the stove on a boat, causing the boat to fill with gas. The killer then called the victim as she arrived back on the boat, knowing that she always lit a cigarette while talking on the phone. Result: one 'accidental' explosion.
- In an episode of Monk, the titular detective stumbles on a murder while in police custody for witnessing another murder. A woman, sick and tired of her husband, electrocutes him in the bath tub with a radio, then puts him in his fishing boat and pushes it out onto the lake in the middle of a thunderstorm. When his body shows up, she claims that he was hit by lightning, so that her insurance company is forced to pay double for an "act of God". Naturally, it almost works, but Monk manages to convince the local sheriff that it was murder. The sheriff agrees to have the coroner examine the body to determine the real cause of death (a lightning strike can be distinguished from an electrocution).
- Murdoch Mysteries: The season 2 finale, "Anything You Can Do...", features a contract killer who specialises in this.
- Oz. An undercover policeman (posing as a drug dealer) is told he has to kill someone to prove himself. But because the new manager of 'Emerald City' has promised to turn a blind eye to the drug trade as long as there's no violence, he's told to "do it a long way from here, and make it look like an accident." The undercover policeman decides to kill two birds with one stone by offing a corrupt ex-cop (now a prisoner) who's threatening to blow his cover. He pushes him down an elevator shaft, after tricking him into going there supposedly to murder another prisoner who knows they're cops.
- Prison Break: "The General" ordered his Psycho for Hire to kill Don Self and "make it look like an accident".
- Derren Brown's special Pushed To The Edge culminates with the unwitting participant being told to push a millionaire off a ledge in order to avoid everyone (including him) from going to prison, claiming that the rich guy climbed on the ledge on his own and didn't take his pills (which is true). The good news, he doesn't go through with it. The bad news, the other three people who went through the same scenario did.
- Noah's Arc: A variation, it's heavily implied that Guy plans on killing Alex and writes a fake note to make it look like a suicide.
- In Pushing Daisies, Emerson Cod urges Ned the piemaker to re-kill someone his power brought Back from the Dead, but make it look like an accident so as not to upset someone else.
- On Rubicon, Spangler tells Mr. Roy that this needs to happen to Will because He Knows Too Much, suggesting that they make it look like a drug overdose as a result of his wife and child's deaths. It doesn't work out.
- In the 1983 Australian mini-series Scales of Justice, a crime boss threatens to blow the whistle on the corrupt police he's been paying if something isn't done about the drug charge he's on. The police commander hints to one of the officers concerned that the whole matter is an embarrassment to the New South Wales police force, and it would be a good matter if the crime boss was to have an accident or commit suicide. So the corrupt officers give him a choice between being tortured by having his toes cut off, or blowing his own head off with a shotgun. And therefore he can't change his mind once they start cutting.
- From The Shadow Line:
- Ross McGovern is killed in what looks like a random traffic accident.
- When Sir Richard Halton is killed, it's made to look like he drowned after falling and hitting his head on the side of his pool.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
Odo: Five operatives were killed yesterday?Informant: Killed? No. Three died from natural causes. The other two perished in accidents.
- The fifth Weyoun died off-screen thanks to a mysterious and inexplicable transporter accident, which despite some very serious investigation was never proven to be foul play, and definitely not tied to Damar in any way whatsoever. All the more suspicious since the Dominion didn't usually have accidents like that.
- In "Improbable Cause," the shop of Garak, a former member of the Cardassian Obsidian Order, is bombed. Odo speaks with an informant who tells him that there were five former operatives of the order who had died on the same day that Garak's shop was bombed.
- Superior Court: the 1980s courtroom drama frequently dipped into this trope, presenting cases where the defendant will claim that the victim's death was an accident; invariably, expert witnesses will disprove the defense's theories.
- One example: A man claimed that his wife died after a car accident when the force of the crash sent a bowling ball, stored in the back seat, flying into the front seat and to crash into the back of the wife's head. However, the prosecution was able to prove: 1. That the defendant beat his wife down before delivering the final blow by smashing the bowling ball into the back of her head; and 2. That the car (which was traveling at 25 mph at the time of what was proven to be an intentional crash) would have had to have been traveling at more than 100 mph for it to even be likely to have the bowling ball to become airborne. Needless to say, the husband – it was proven he killed her because she had filed for divorce after years of abuse and he was going to lose everything in the settlement – was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
- Supernatural: In the episode "Folsom Prison Blues", Nurse Glockner disguises her murders as heart attacks.
- That Mitchell and Webb Look:
- Parodied in a sketch where one of the minions of a Diabolical Mastermind is attempting to get them to stop using so much Double Speak and False Reassurance. He brings up the time they were told "Let's hope Professor Ritson meets with an unfortunate accident". It ended up being several months of literal waiting before the mastermind clarified that it was an accident they were supposed to make happen.
- Played around with in another sketch in which Diana's murder is being planned — the planners' main concern about their plan of getting the chauffeur drunk, chasing them with fifteen hired paparazzi on motorcycles and hoping Diana doesn't wear a seatbelt is that it will be obvious that it wasn't an accident. Then, at the end of the sketch, it turns out it happened on its own while they were planning it.
- An episode of Time Trax involves a 22nd-century criminal using a device that temporarily supercharges the target's heart to kill a person with a "heart attack". No 20th-century doctor can determine any other cause of death but natural. Naturally, Darien knows the cause.
- Titus episode "Tommy's Girlfriend". Titus tells Tommy to run into (meet) his old girlfriend and make it look like an accident. Tommy takes him literally, and does it with a car.
- In one episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. The Big Bad says "make it look like an accident" and his Mooks promptly start destroying everything in sight with bullets. And fire.
- In the Wallander episode "The Man Who Smiled", the father of a friend of Wallander's is killed in this manner after he blackmails someone involved in organ trafficking.
- A Nintendo Power comic dedicated to Blast Corps played this troupe ridiculously straight. While loading up the robot Cyclone to bust a scientist out of prison, the pilot is advised that "it has to look natural." The robot then proceeds to smash a single cell of the prison and get the scientist out. The crowning glory is that one of the prison guards says, "The fury of mother nature."
- It makes more sense when one realizes that the scene takes place during a lightning storm, with the pilot timing his hit to coincide with the thunderclap, making it look like the scientist's cell just happened to get struck by lightning. Though one must wonder how they walked a giant robot up to a prison without getting spotted.
- The boardgame 13 Dead End Drive has players committing an Inheritance Murder through this trope, positioning other characters below heavy objects, atop slippery stairways, or in front of faulty fireplaces to bump each other off.
- In Mysterium, players must solve the murder of a ghost whose death was ruled an accident.
- Because randomly gunning people down in Paranoia is considered poor form by Friend Computer, it's usually a good idea to make your shaftings look like accidents, treason executions, or - best yet - the work of some other Commie mutant traitor you'd like to see gunned down.
- Happens all the time in Shadowrun. Often the PCs will be hired to do so. Or stop someone else from doing so. Or to get back at someone who did so...
- In Warhammer, the Tomb King codex specifies that it wasn't illegal per se for tomb architects to refuse being sacrificed and buried with their king, but it was accident-prone.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- One of the 5th-edition Necron Lords (the one that made them Tomb Kings IN SPACE!) is brain-damaged, so he sees everything as it was prior to his awakening, when Necrons were the only living creatures in the galaxy, and so thinks captured enemy leaders are rival Necron claimants to the Throne. His bodyguard has no such problems, and is always regretful to announce to his master that his latest guests have suffered an "unfortunate accident".
- The Catachans used to have a special rule to reflect their independent nature. Whenever attaching a Commissar to a squad, you had to roll to make sure the Commissar hadn't suffered an equally unfortunate "accident" preventing him from carrying out his duties.
- May be one of the oldest ones in the book as this happens in Hamlet. Claudius proposes a fencing match between Laertes and Hamlet in which Laertes will fight with a poison-tipped sword, so it looks like an accident. He also gave out that Hamlet Sr. had died of a snakebite.
- Sandbox games tend to have 'Make it look like an accident' as a theme for many of their assasination missions. Just running up to the victim and firing off a clip doesn't always finish the mission.
- Some of the assassination plots in Crusader Kings are this, with incidents such as carriages falling over cliffs, a section of the castle wall suddenly breaking apart, or the target being bitten by a snake. However, it is always possible for the plot to fail and the perpetrators being caught.
- One of the CSI games has a stage actress shot by, apparently, a prop gun loaded with blanks during a rehearsal. The other actors and the stagehands are suspected, but it's pointed out that actors are specifically told to never aim a gun directly at the other person. They're supposed to aim it slightly to the side but still make it look like they're aiming at the target to the audience. The reason murderer is the victim's jealous husband who found out that she was cheating on him with another actress. He shot her from a theater balcony from about the same angle.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a side quest in China that calls for this to take place.
- Another sidequest in the same location has you investigate a murder that was made to look like an accident, though in that particular case, the murderer was a complete idiot and it was painfully clear that the victim's death was anything but an accident.
- A rare benevolent variation from Disgaea. King Krichevskoy dying from choking on a black pretzel was merely what the people were told; he actually died sealing Baal away, and this was kept secret to keep him from escaping.
- In Dishonored, the player can take this approach to eliminate many of the targets. One such way is by filling a room with steam.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, during the Dwarf Noble origin story, you can potentially order the death of another dwarf this way in the first five minutes of the game.
- Dwarf Fortress provides plenty of opportunity to orchestrate fatal "accidents" for nobles, who are generally annoying and often useless.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion:
- One of the assassin missions will give you a bonus if you can make the victim's death look like an accident by dropping a
mooseminotaur head on him.
- Another one will give you a bonus if you can make the death look like natural causes, by secretly poisoning the already ill victim's medicine supply.
- One of the assassin missions will give you a bonus if you can make the victim's death look like an accident by dropping a
- In Skyrim, another Dark Brotherhood assassination gives you the option to push a statue onto a target.
- Although the Clairvoyant Security Force suggests that the game's AI does not view it as an accident at all.
- If you're seen. Which, for the guards, translates as "a string of your hair in the general area". The player CAN pull this off and sneak away, but the odds are harsh. What makes this ridiculous is that another option to perform the assassination is to snipe the bride from an even lower, easier-to-see perch, with a unique bow and some arrows, both planted in there by your assassin pals. Not only this doesn't make the deed look like an accident at all, it's also harder for the player to get caught in that way!
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion:
- E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy's Huan Lo Pan intends to kill the player in "an accident"... which he says right to the player's face. You can then respond that the only accident you fear is his head falling into a vat of acid with you wearing his face as a party mask.
- Also Fallout 3, in Tranquility Lane.
- And Fallout 2, with the mission to kill Westin.
- Also Fallout 2, every crime boss in New Reno has some unique way to die "accidentally"- changing the combination on a trapped office safe, or setting up a little kid to accidentally shoot his father in the face.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, one of the ways to deal with Pacer is to spike his Jet so that he gets a heart attack.
- The Big Bad of Full Throttle arranges for Ben to die in what appears to be a road accident (when, in fact, his goons sabotage Ben's bike), so that he can lead Ben's gang into a trap. Needless to say, Ben survives and gets back at him.
- In The Godfather: The Game, you occasionally have to make some assassinations look like an accident in order to get bonus benefits. This usually involves making someone fall off a building.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Tenpenny is "Just a cop that died in a traffic accident". Also, San Fierro police occasionally shout "You know, I can make this look like a suicide".
- A mission in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City similarly has you assassinating someone and your goal is to make it look like a car accident. Of course, in practice it's less an 'accident' and more 'relentlessly hounding the person until you make their car explode'.
- An Easter egg in Grand Theft Auto V has a ghost lady appear at around 11:00 PM at the north eastern section of the map. If she is approached, she disappears, but a name spelled in blood is labeled Jock. A newspaper in the internet of the game references a tragedy transpiring at the cliff she is spotted. This happens to be the same Jock running for governor in game.
- Hitman: The series involves various methods to poison, sabotage, or nudge your victims to death without directly implicating yourself. While the majority of missions allow you to kill almost anyone at any time with any implementation, killing indirectly means less evidence to clean up for your handlers and therefore nets you a larger score.
- In Hitman: Blood Money, the best way to make Silent Assassin rank is to make the killings of your targets look like accidents, which you can do by many means in the game (falling chandeliers, explosively igniting grills, and other creatively nasty ways). This is also the only means of killing non-targets without affecting rank or getting a cash penalty. Of course, some methods of arranging accidents would probably start people wondering in Real Life. For example, the best way to off a pair of actors during a rehearsal is to swap out the prop gun for a real one. Then, when one of the targets shoots the other and comes to check, drop a lighting fixture on them. It would be hard to explain that with a series of a freak accidents.
- In Jade Empire, you're "encouraged" to kill your boss' boss in the Lotus Assassin fortress, which in this case means "kill him and then stick his body in the golem press" (you can also drop a golem on your boss as well, doubling the trope).
- A more satirical example is Kang's suggestion you make Gao the Greater "fall down a flight of punches".
- "Foxdie" in Metal Gear Solid is a genetically engineered virus that can be customized to only infect people with specific DNA sequences to make them either a carrier or cause a heart attack within 5 to 15 minutes. It's secretly injected into Snake by Naomi at the beginning of Metal Gear Solid to make sure that nobody who knows about Liquids and Ocelots plan leaves the island alive. In the fourth game, he's injected with a new version, which includes kill orders for Big Boss and EVA.
- The Big Bad of Nancy Drew: Danger on Deception Island tells Nancy that he will make her death look like an "unfortunate kayaking accident'' or an attack from the snake horse.
- Persona 5: "Black Mask", The Heavy for the villains, uses this method to kill people: By destroying their minds in the Mental World of the Palace, he leaves them as Soulless Shells that will "accidentally" walk into traffic, fall off buildings, crash their vehicles, and so on. And in the Nonstandard Game Over where you fail to complete a Palace before the time limit, you yourself meet this fate.
- The Reincarnation Flash Game series has the protagonist kill targets respecting two conditions: they have to die after committing a sin, and as a result of circumstances or their own actions. The objective of the game is to manipulate the environment so that the latter happens.
- Sniper Elite III: In the Siwa Oasis mission, you have the option to "make it look like an accident" when you kill an officer near the end. You make it look like an accident by following him around until he's near some explosives, and then shooting the explosives.
- Trouble In Terrorist Town allows players to at least try to set this up, with the use of weapons such as discombobulators, which do no damage but can be used to throw players off high places.
- World of Warcraft: Cataclysm: One quest undertaken by the Alliance has your character attempt to take out several key members of the Dark Horde (not to be confused with the main faction called The Horde) in Burning Steppes using a certain tranquilizer. While this trope isn't explicitly in your mission orders, each one you take out dies in a manner that fits this trope (one falls from a great height, another falls into a lava pool, and a third is attacked by the hounds she keeps), which pleases your superior.
- In Yandere Simulator, Yandere-chan can kill her victims by throwing them off a roof and slipping off their shoes before they take the plunge, thus making it look like a Barefoot Suicide. If you leave the body undisturbed for the rest of the day, the police will conclude the death to be accidental. Too many unexplained falls from the roof will start to come off as suspect, though, and the school may erect a chain-link fence around the roof to prevent any more falls. If you leave a suicide note after dumping the body, though, you can stave off suspicion.
- In The Spectrum Retreat, Alex attempted to make their first murder look like his victim stumbled and fell on the tracks, but though it initially works, soon eyewitnesses abound and the case is re-classified as homicide.
- In the second week of Seven Kingdoms: The Princess Problem, someone puts a thorn under your horse's saddle blanket to agitate it into running away with you. It's obvious that it's an attempt to kill you in a way that looks like an unfortunate accident, and if you're playing on Challenge Mode and don't have the necessary self-preservation skills or someone who cares about you looking out for your safety, it can succeed.
- Played with in Society Of Virtue episode "Guardians of 0.01% of the Galaxy", where the aliens make a laughably token effort to pretend it wasn't murder.
- The Principal in Birthday Gift killed an old rival of his to get the "inheritance", his 18-year-old-daughter. She seems to know it was him, and he makes no secret pointing out "it was an accident" with a glee. Nobody really cares to put him away, although you'd think at least some students would try to blackmail him with it...
- Parodied in Darths & Droids:
Darth Vader: Everyone concerned will meet with an unfortunate accident.
Daine Jir: Oh no. I'll inform our occupational safety committee immediately.
- In Plume, the Evil Prince got the throne by drowing his older brother and making it look like an accident. Playing with the trope a bit, he's genuinely surprised that the third brother hasn't caught up on this until he pretty much spells it out for him.
- This is not recommended in the Evil Overlord List Cellblock A:
"I will not waste time making my enemy's death look like an accident — I'm not accountable to anyone and my other enemies wouldn't believe it."
- In his "The Sixth Day" crossover with That Sci-Fi Guy, The Nostalgia Critic threatens that if he doesn't do most of the work, he'll slit TSFG's wrists and leave him for housekeeping to find.
- Sips has a comedic version during his Skyrim playthrough. After killing someone (even if they are a bandit), he puts a bucket on their head to make it look like they somehow killed themselves with one. It doesn't really affect the gameplay.
- Inverted in a discussion by Pat from Two Best Friends Play about how to prepare yourself if you end up dying like David Carradine.
Pat: Girlfriend, if,somehow for whatever reason,you find me in such an uncompromising position, there is a baseball bat in the other room, I want you to cut me down and I want you to fake a murder by thugs. And yes I know it's gonna look like you murdered me but you need to take that risk for my pride.
- In every iteration of the Xylophone Gag, the schemer says this line. How a xylophone/piano rigged with explosives is supposed to look like an accident is an exercise best left to the reader.
- Commonplace in the Batman related animated shows:
- Batman: The Animated Series: In "Bane", Rupert Thorne's moll, Candace, suggests that this might be a way of getting rid of her employer/lover.
Candace: With Batman out of the way, Gotham could be yours. So could I.
Bane: What about your employer?
Candace: Accidents do happen.
- In the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Chill of the Night" Batman, with help from The Spectre, witnesses Joe Chill being contracted to kill Thomas Wayne, complete with "Just make it look like an accident." Since a mugging gone bad does not look like an accident, this shows the blurry line between "make it look like an accident" and "make sure it can't be traced back to me".
- Batman: The Animated Series: In "Bane", Rupert Thorne's moll, Candace, suggests that this might be a way of getting rid of her employer/lover.
- In one episode of Cow and Chicken, The Red Guy plays a collection agent who threatens the titular duo with an accident. When they ask what kind, a train spontaneously runs The Red Guy over. "This kind."
- Futurama introduces the trope with some dialogue among the Robot Mafia.
Donbot: I think he's gonna have a little on the job accident in the near future.
Joey Mousepad: With all due respect, Donbot, I don't think we should count on an accident happening. Let's kill him ourselves.
- Played for laughs in Home Movies.
McGuirk: Drew is a nice guy, right?
Brendon: Very nice.
McGuirk: He means well, he knows soccer, kids seem to like him…
Brendon: Kids love him.
McGuirk: He could have my job, couldn’t he?
Brendon: In a heartbeat. But why would a guy want a dead end job like that?
McGuirk: I can’t take that chance, Brendon. That’s why it has to look like an accident.
Brendon: What does?
McGuirk: The accident.
Brendon: Oh, right… well that’s it! Dwayne, The strings on Dwayne’s guitar, would suddenly just, strangle him, it would be perfect!
McGuirk: Or I could just frame him…
Brendon: We could exchange murders. Criss-cross.
McGuirk: What are you talking about, Criss-cross?
Brendon: I’m talking about Christopher Cross.
- In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Magneto wants to get rid of Senator Kelly, but doesn't want to create a martyr for the Senator's cause. So he kidnaps Jean Grey to use her mental powers to make it look like a heart attack.
- Jonny Quest:
- "Double Danger". The doppleganger Race Bannon tells the Thai Jungle Guide to get rid of Jonny and Hadji, and to make it look like an accident.
- "Werewolf of the Timberland". The Big Bad of the episode tells Pierre over the radio that the Quest team team must not be shot, but must be killed in a way that makes their deaths look like an accident.
- Mandragora taunts Faraday in Justice League Unlimited by describing a witness as having unfortunately wandered in front of a train.
- The King of the Hill episode "Fun with Jane and Jane" opens with Buck Strickland telling Hank to go shoot his emus because the bottom fell out of the market. The last thing he says before he leaves is "Make it look like a heart attack."
- In the Looney Tunes short "From Hare to Heir", Yosemite Sam plays the nephew of a king who is desperate for money. Bugs comes by his castle offering him 1 million pounds if he can prove himself a man of mild temper (with penalties deducted from the sum for every time Sam loses his cool). After failing to control his fits of rage, Sam decides the easiest solution is to simply off Bugs and make it look like an accident. Needless to say, he fails in rather spectacular fashion.
- The Simpsons:
Mr. Burns: You know, Master Simon, I too was once the youngest in a wealthy family.
- Subversion: In an episode, Moe wants to get Mr. Burns off the bowling team because of how terrible he is, so he sinisterly suggests that Mr. Burns "just might have a little accident on his way to the tournament." Mr. Burns then walks into the building sporting a leg injury, but it's the result of an actual accident. Moe then sneaks up behind Mr. Burns in disguise and hits him in the leg with a lead pipe, but it actually pops his leg bone back into place.
- Taken to an extreme in "Double, Double Boy in Trouble" when Mr. Burns explains how he came by his inheritance, despite having 10 older siblings:
Bart: [disguised as Simon] You were once the youngest of something?
Mr. Burns: But fortune ended up smiling on me while snuffing the life from my siblings. [pulls out photo] My older brother was trampled by a horse. My sister died of a poisoned potato. My twin was shot. That girl was stabbed. He ate another poisoned potato. Spontaneous combustion. Fell down a well, potato, potato, and impaled on the Chrysler Building.
- Also parodied in "Mayored to the Mob": The mayor, due to plot unrelated actions, got the mob anger on himself. Cue Fat Tony to say on television that the mayor has to look out. "Because accidents happen all the time. Like the killing of you. By us."
- Also added as humor by Willie, stating he could kill Bart with a hoe to the back, claiming he could make it look as if Bart committed suicide.
- Woody Woodpecker: One story features Buzz Buzzard trying to kill Woody to collect insurance. Because of the policy's terms, Woody's death must be ruled as an accident otherwise Buzz won't collect even if he's not proven to be the killer.
- In North Korea, political opponents are officially reported to have died in car crashes, even though there are almost no cars on the road due to the constant gas shortage.
- After the escape from Stalag Luft III (which was dramatized in The Great Escape), fifty prisoners were shot after recapture as revenge but to cover their tracks, the Germans attempted (but Epic Failed) to use this trick in the reports of the shooting. Claiming that around fifty men had all tried to overpower their guards and escape after stopping to relieve themselves at the roadside in multiple incidents across the German countryside (with none wounded) was too unbelievable to take anyone in, and the perpetrators were hunted down after the war.
- In 1994, a FedEx cargo plane was hijacked by disgruntled employee Auburn Calloway, who intended to use the plane in a suicide attack on FedEx headquarters while somehow making it look accidental, as his death in an accident would enable a payoff from the $2.5 million life insurance policy he had taken out on himself. Riding along in the jumpseat, he used hammers to attack the flight crew, hitting each in the head, injuries which would be virtually indistinguishable from those incurred in a crash. Despite severe injuries, Captain David Sanders and Flight Engineer Andrew Peterson retaliated, and a struggle began with the two attempting to pin their attacker while co-pilot James Tucker stayed at the controls. Tucker being a former Navy pilot, he began turning the plane in a wild, unpredictable manner intended to keep Calloway off balance, nearly rolling it on its back and taking it near uncontrollable speed. Eventually Calloway was pinned, and the captain, also former Navy, took control and began an immediate landing. Due to trauma and blood loss, all three were losing strength, and they needed to get on the ground or risk Calloway breaking loose again, so there was no time to dump fuel. They had to land overweight, at a dangerously steep angle, at a recklessly fast speed, but the captain pulled it off. Calloway was arrested, but the flight crew was too injured to ever fly again.
- Truth in Television for the Indian Police, who would often cut the heavy red tape that would ensue by catching a criminal by shooting them instead, and they always play it off as an "encounter", i.e. shooting in self-defense.
- The same reputation is now preceding the Philippine National Police, deputised to hunt down drug users and pushers in the ongoing war on drugs under the current Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte. Several times the Filipino word "nanlaban" ("fought back" in English) is used in police encounters, meaning that the suspect allegedly made a grab for an officer's gun.
- In 1974, Ronald Clark O'Bryan poisoned several large plastic Pixie sticks. He gave them to his son Timothy, daughter Elizabeth, and some friends who were Trick or Treating with them. The idea was to kill his two children and the other's making it look like the Urban Legend of Halloween Poisonings; then, he'd collect on the large life insurance policies he had on both of his children. Poor Timothy was killed, but Elizabeth and the other kids didn't eat the poisoned candy so they were safe; soon the story and plot fell apart and O'Bryan became the focus of the investigation, was detained/jailed, and ultimately got executed by lethal injection in 1984. In the greater Houston area he sometimes called "the man who killed Halloween" or "The Candy Man". note
- Omnipresent in the brutal dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina in the Dominican Republic. The most famous case perhaps is the one of the Mirabal Sisters, who were brutally murdered by Trujillo’s own right hand men, and then put inside a car, to simulate a car accident. This particular crime may have played a vital part in the fall of his dictatorship, as the crimes massively pissed the Dominicans off due to how loved the Mirabal sisters were by the populace AND the USA government wasn't exactly happy either... and in less than a year, Trujillo was murdered. A novel and later movie was written about it, called In the Time of the Butterflies.
- With modern Real Life cars it would be a rather poor tactic to sever a brake line or pour oil on the brake discs. First, brake failure would become apparent to the driver while still at very slow speed in the parking lot, second, modern ABS braking systems have totally separated circuits in the ABS unit, unlike an older, mechanical, dual-circuit braking system (where the fluid may still leak from all the system even if only one circuit has been tampered with), so the modern car can brake just fine, albeit slower.
- Deaths in police custody have been commonly attributed to the suspect "falling down the stairs".
- Practically any "hunting accident" with the nobility or royalty for any country anytime in history.
- Union activist Karen Silkwood died in a car accident as she was on her way to meet a reporter from The New York Times where she intended to expose the unsafe conditions at the nuclear fuel plant where she worked. It assumed by many that she was intentionally run off the road. Evidence does indicate this, but with no witnesses, the official cause of death is "accident". The theory that Silkwood's death was due to foul play was the inspiration for a similar scene in the film The China Syndrome.
- In 1943, American codebreakers decrypted a detailed itinerary for a inspection/morale tour of front areas by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. The problem was that the US was heavily relying on Japanese confidence in their "unbreakable" code, which had been in use since before Pearl Harbor — but had been broken very early on. To conceal the fact that their information came from breaking the code and preserve that source of intelligence, the mission was set up to make it appear that a flight of P-38's just happened to 'accidentally' stumble on Yamamoto's flight, and the success of the mission was hidden even by the US. It wasn't until after the Japanese acknowledged his death a month later that Americans learned this themselves, and that it was a deliberate strike was hidden until well after the war. Astonishingly, it did pass as an accident, even though the P-38s were right at the limit of their operational range when they encountered Yamamoto's aircraft, meaning they had to have taken off at exactly the right time for interception.
- There have been rumors that Jessica Savitch, the first host of Frontline, was bumped off in this manner months after the broadcast of "NFL and Game Fixing: An Unauthorized History of the NFL". Long story short, a documentary that connects a powerful organization to organized crime can make you a whole lot of powerful enemies.
- In October 2007, Drew Petersen's 4th wife Stacy mysteriously vanished. Despite rampant—and likely correct—suspicion that he murdered her, there was no evidence to support this. However, this made cops become suspicious regarding the death of his 3rd wife Kathleen, who was found dead in her bathtub 3 years prior. Despite his history of Domestic Abuse and their acrimonious divorce, it was deemed that she'd had drowned after slipping and hitting her head. A second autopsy found that she had in fact been struck on the head and then forcibly held underwater.
- Pretty much every Real Life or fictional cop show will feature criminals who try to invoke varying versions of this. Accident, suicide, self-defense, "someone else did it", etc.
- In some places where honor killings are common, the family members of the victim will say that she died in a "kitchen fire."